Rosa Bathurst, the sleeping beauty of the Tiber river
We are in in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, Italy.
Rosa Bathurst was found after six months and she looked like she was just asleep the whole time.
Rosa was a beautiful 16 years old girl from a noble English family and in 1824 she was staying with her uncles in Rome. She was a charming and intelligent girl, full of life, always attending social events and apparently well known and admired by everyone.
In the morning of March 16, 1824, Rosa and a small group of people went on a riding trip out of town along the banks of the Tiber river, at that moment full of water because of the heavy raining during the night, making the path at its banks muddy and slippery.
At one point, Rosa`s horse slid on the slippery ground and began falling towards the river with Rosa still on his back. Although Rosa was an excellent rider, she could not manage the situation and fell into the river along with her horse.
Despite she was seen struggling among the icy waves, she had no possibility of assistance, since no one in the group was good at swimming. One of those present tried desperately to grab her hand from the bank, but with no success and Rosa disappeared almost immediately, swallowed by the mighty river, with her hat tied with ribbons under her chin and her long blue robe wrapped around her.
Her horse emerged nearby and managed to gain the shore, but there was no trace of Rosa.
She was desperately searched for by the torchlight and all of Rome was moved and committed to find her, but in vain, despite the notices immediately posted which offered large prizes. Eventually, city mourning was proclaimed and the Romans blamed the leap year for the disgrace.
The young man who tried to save her left Rome to return to England, but after six months he returned to Rome, to see once again the scene of the accident. On his way back, he noticed a small blue cloth on the opposite bank of the river. It was Rosa, buried under a thick layer of river silt.
When Rosa was pulled out of the silt, no one could believe their eyes: due the conservative capacity of the river silt, she looked completely intact and she was still as beautiful as she was on the day of the accident. Besides a slight wound on her forehead it seemed like she was just sleeping all this time, waiting for someone to wake her up.
The reason? The silt of the Tiber, in addition to constituting the suitable environment for infinite microorganisms and bivalve molluscs, in the shape of clams but of considerable size which produce pearls and purify the water of the river, also has a remarkable conservative capacity.
Rosa’s sudden death shocked Rome, who had admired her beauty, intelligence and charm. The story of her tragic death and her intact beauty also filled urban news and inspired many portraits, stories and novels. Allegedly it is also the topic of an Italian song called the Marinella’s song (La canzone di Marinella), written by a legendary Italian singer and songwriter Fabrizio De André.
On her tomb, there is a magnificent relief of her, emerging from the Tiber river and being received by an angel. It was designed by the English sculptor Richard Westmacott junior which is interesting for the beautiful reliefs and for the touching epigraph which records her death by drowning at the age of 16.
Although the tomb was built in 1825, the long inscriptions (in both Latin and English) were only added after 1830.